Use Mental Health Awareness Week to Educate People About Depression
Are you as tired as I am of some of the issues we have to deal with on top of trying to treat and live with depression? Are you tired of the myths, misconceptions, and the stigma still surrounding depression? Yes? Then let's do something about it!
This week, October 7 - 13, is Mental Illness Awareness Week. The theme this year is Building Community, Taking Action.
In 1990, Congress designated the first week of October as Mental Health Awareness Week (MIAW), recognizing efforts by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to raise awareness of mental illness. In addition, Bipolar Disorder Awareness Day (BDAD) is observed on the Thursday of MIAW each year, encouraging early intervention and treatment for bipolar disorder.
So, back to doing something about the myths, misconceptions, and stigma. I realize that it seems pretty overwhelming to think that one person can make a difference, but we absolutely can. Think of a glass of water as individual drops, starting out as clear water. Now think of the individual drops turning blue (or your favorite color). It will take time, but if those drops are people who need to be enlightened, and each turns blue as we reach them, we CAN turn that glass of water blue.
Here are some steps each of us can take in keeping with Building Community, Taking Action...
Start by educating ourselves about mental illness.
Share what we learn with family and friends.
Reach out to support other people with depression, bipolar disorder, or other illnesses.
Refuse to be embarrassed or ashamed of having a mental illness...
Here's a biggie... We can all join NAMI's StigmaBusters! StigmaBusters is "a network of dedicated advocates across the country and around the world who seek to fight inaccurate and hurtful representations of mental illness." There are resources available on their Web site to arm ourselves with the facts we need and ideas of how to help.
We've all seen awareness ribbons of all colors, but did you know there's a silver Anti-Stigma Pin? The silver ribbon pin represents the "Campaign for the Brain" and promotes public awareness of the need to support people with brain disorders. You can get one HERE. I just ordered mine.
What changes do you think need to occur to improve life for people with a mental illness? Here are some I'd like to see:
Improved and increased mental health screenings. Mental health is a huge part of overall health, and it impacts our physical health as well. All doctors should be trained to recognize the symptoms and refer patients who need further assessment and / or treatment for mental illnesses.
Better access to care. Regardless of the type of illness, it's becoming increasingly difficult to afford care without health insurance. Plus, many insurance companies pay less for mental health care. My insurance company, for example, pays 50% less on mental health care than they do on other care. Our dental care is covered better than mental health. How can this be? How can potentially serious illnesses that are verified diseases of the brain not be covered at least at the same level as a chipped tooth? Somehow, we need to find a way for people to have access to appropriate and adequate care.
More funding for research. 'Nuff said.
Better public education about mental health issues. People tend to fear and stigmatize what they don't understand. This shouldn't be left to the nonprofit organizations to take care of, and it should start in our schools. We teach kids about sex; why don't we teach them about mental illness?
Increased acceptance and compassion. Our efforts to educate and enlighten people can help increase the level of acceptance and compassion that we receive from others. This can also be achieved through better public education.
It's your turn now. Please click the "Add comment" link below to share what you're going to do and what changes you think need to occur.